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COLUMN: Breastfeeding, a winning goal for life

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By Josey Crew

The 2014 World Breastfeeding Week theme, “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life,” acknowledges that when mothers and babies succeed in their breastfeeding plans, they can enjoy a lifetime of benefits.

Infant feeding is one of the most important decisions a family can make, and most women who choose to breastfeed have a specific goal in mind. Research shows that babies who receive only breast milk for the first six months of life are less likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases, including ear infections, diarrheal diseases, asthma, obesity, and respiratory illnesses. Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding with a decreased risk for breast and ovarian cancers.

To reach the goal of exclusive breastfeeding, mothers need a team of helpers and healthcare professionals to support them. This breastfeeding team can include family, friends, physicians, nurses, midwives, employers, and childcare providers. Together, the breastfeeding team provides information to boost confidence, protects mothers against critics, gives reassurance, and lends a hand to help breastfeeding mothers succeed. Team members with special skills and knowledge about breastfeeding, such as a peer counselor, CLC, or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, are especially helpful.

“An IBCLC is often the `head coach' for the breastfeeding team, providing unique expertise and guidance for a mother,” said Decalie Brown, president of the International Lactation Consultant Association.

When mothers and babies are able to reach their breastfeeding goals, they also contribute to community prosperity, health, equity, and environmental sustainability.

“Healthy mothers with healthy babies are better able to contribute to household wealth because illnesses do not limit their opportunity to generate income,” said Brown. “Additionally, breastfeeding provides appropriate nutrition for infant growth, sets the stage for school-readiness, and contributes to a cleaner environment with less waste. Together, all of these small contributions add up for improved global health.”

“Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for life” also highlights the Millennium Development Goals, an international framework for reducing poverty and providing people with lives of dignity in every nation by 2015. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, which coordinates World Breastfeeding Week, has identified how breastfeeding contributes to each of the MDGs. For further details, visit www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org.

To find an IBCLC in your community with the expertise to help coach breastfeeding mothers, visit the “Find a Lactation Consultant” Directory at www.ILCA.org.

Josey Crew RD, LD, CLC is a dietitian for Lincoln Trail District Health Department. Nutrition counseling is available for children and adults by appointment at the LaRue County Health Center. For further information, call 270-358-3844.